In a recent retreat with an Air Force Officers Spouses organization, we heard the usual corresponding issues over spouse deployment with separation anxiety, concern for their personal safety, as well as their pride in the call to duty. One of the unexpected issues we heard from this group was the loss of identity. Regardless of gender, they revealed that many of the spouses felt that they were known only as one identity, ‘an officer’s spouse’, or ‘a military couple’. We found this very interesting in that many of these married people were highly degreed, employed elsewhere off the military base. Some were heads of national humanities chapters such as AARP, the United Way, and the National Osteoporosis Foundation; and, many were parents. How is it that this assessment of one identity prevailed when it was evident that each of these people were very successful and known by many identities?
What is the belief commonly accepted as self-identity? According to Professor Rick Hoyle of the University of Kentucky, “The human self is a self-organizing, interactive system of thoughts, feelings, and motives that characterizes an individual. It gives rise to an enduring experience of physical and psychological existence—a phenomenological sense of constancy and predictability. The self is reflexive and dynamic in nature: responsive yet stable.”
The self can have several identities, both public and private. Identity is not just what you know, but how you came to know it. Identities are realized over time. Think back to when you were a child seeing things in a very trouble-free, non-demanding manner. As you grow older and become shrewder, you identify yourself with very personal experiences, various people’s influences, associate different places and things in additional refined ways.
If you think you need to strengthen or enhance your family of identities, ask yourself:
• Are you aware of your core values and how can they can help you demonstrate your uniqueness of self in the community, the world?
• What do you think your identify is among your peers, your neighborhood, your professional life, your marriage life, motivating, stable, ungrounded without support or assumed to be no-one without a partner?